A Small Encyclopedia of Herbs for Addiction
DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE.
Bacopa Monnieri / Bacopa Monniera / Brahmi / Water Hyssop
Bacopa Monnieri is a well-known nootropic that reduces inflammation in the brain and body. It has antioxidant effects and it’s been used by Ayurvedic doctors for centuries to improve memory, treat epilepsy, and reduce anxiety. Bacopa Monniera can boost brain function and relieve stress during the withdrawal and detoxification process following addiction. It can help heal the brain and kidneys following opioid addiction at a dose of 40 mg/kg of body weight and it can help prevent damage from opioids like street heroin or morphine when taken 2 hours prior to ingesting heroin or morphine. As such, Bacopa Monnieri could be a valuable herb for heroin addiction or addiction to other opiates.
Calendula officinalis has been used to treat mental tension and insomnia. Scientists have demonstrated that Calendula can protect rats against neurotoxicity induced by Monosodium Glutamate. So this is a plant that has the ability to protect the brain against overproduction of glutamate via its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As such it could theoretically be used as part of an at-home drug rehabilitation program.
Camellia sinensis / Tea Plant
Camellia sinensis has an anti-anxiety effect that is more pronounced at higher doses. At the right dose, it is comparable in effect to diazepam. As such Camellia sinensis is a good herb for addiction to diazepam and other benzodiazepines. Scientists speculate that it works through GABA-A benzodiazepine receptors which makes this a good choice for people who are trying to break a benzodiazepine addiction.
Gotu Kola / Centella asiatica
Gotu Kola is used to treat mental fatigue. In some circles, this herb is considered a nootropic because it helps promote wakefulness, but it also reduces anxiety. In studies examining Gotu Kola, the herb was able to reduce the “startle response” in mice. People use it for insomnia, but it can also be used to promote focused relaxation, which can be helpful to people who are awake and trying to work or concentrate.
There are several different ways to take Gotu Kola. If you have some of the dried herb, use it to make a tea and drink it up to 3 times per day. Powdered herb is available in capsules, but you may also find a standardized extract that contains 40% asiaticoside, 29-30% asiatic acid, 29-30% madecassic acid and 1-2% madecassoside. Take 20-180 mg per day of the standardized extract.
- Dried herb: You can make a tea of the dried leaf, 3 times daily.
- Powdered herb: available in capsules
- Tincture (1:2 w/v, 30% alcohol): 30 to 60 drops (equivalent to 1.5 to 3 mL, there are 5 mL in a tsp.), 3 times daily.
- Standardized extract: 50 to 250 mg, 2 to 3 times daily. Standardized extracts should contain 40% asiaticoside, 29 to 30% asiatic acid, 29 to 30 % madecassic acid, and 1 to 2% madecassoside. Doses used in studies mentioned in the Treatment section include 20 mg for scleroderma and up to 180 mg in one study for venous insufficiency, although most of the studies for this condition used 90 to 120 mg daily.
Grapefruit Essential Oil
Grapefruit essential oils are often used in Japan workplaces to stimulate productivity. Studies have shown that the smell of grapefruit makes people more focused and many drug treatment facilities use aromatherapy diffusers of grapefruit essential oil during the daytime hours to enhance mood.
Griffonia simplicifolia / 5-HTP
This plant medicine is an important addiction cure. If you’re hoping to treat addiction home using herbs, combine 5-HTP with Mucuna pruriens. Be aware that 5-HTP may not be needed in some cases, but it will be a vital part of your at-home addiction treatment plan if you have low serotonin levels. Just make sure you don’t combine 5-HTP with prescription anti-depressants or other pharmaceuticals.
Honokiol / Magnolia Bark
Honokiol crosses the blood-brain barrier to preserve mitochondria, acting as a neuroprotector. It reduces reactive oxygen species and inflammation. It promotes healthy connections between nerve cells and specifically preserves cholinergic neurons. Honokiol acts as a central depressant and anti-anxiety medication at low doses by interacting with the GABA-A receptors and endocannabinoid receptors. It blocks glutamate and alters the serotonin turnover in the frontal cortex.
Take at 0.2 mg/kg doses. It can be neurotoxic at very high doses. Be aware that honokiol may have a drug interaction with other prescription or non-prescription sedatives.
Huperzia serrata / Huperizine A derivative
Huperizine A is a derivative from the plant Huperzia serrata. Huperizine A works on a variety of neurotransmitter systems including acetylcholine, glutamate, and more. Though Huperizine A by itself is often not enough by itself to help an addict stop taking cocaine, meth, or other substances, it can help increase the amount of available acetylcholine which also helps increase the amount of available dopamine in the brain. The most effective dosing schedule for Huperizine A is 0.4 mg administered two times per day. At lower doses, the anti-addiction effects are less evident and at higher doses, the effects of Huperizine A may cause negative symptoms that make it’s benefits less evident. So take Huperizine A at the 0.4 mg dose twice daily for best results.
Kava Kava is made from the root of the kava plant. It belongs to the pepper family and it comes primarily from the South Pacific and islands like Indonesia or Fiji. In these areas of the world the Kava Kava plant is used to make a variety of different teas and beverages. It is used ceremonially as well as in recreational and social settings.
Kava Kava is a plant medicine that contains kavapyrones that reduce cravings for people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. It has been particularly noted for its ability to help people overcome benzodiazepine addiction from drugs like Xanax or Ativan, but Kava Kava binds to receptors in the brain that reduce addiction and craving in general, not just for benzodiazepines.
Kava Kava reduces anxiety, and can help people with insomnia fall asleep more easily. It’s a muscle relaxant too. Kava Kava users need to take breaks from this medicine however because it can be hard on the liver with long-term use according to some sources.
Though some sources recommend 250 mg as the maximum dose, the Kava Kava Society of New Zealand says that this dosage doesn’t really reflect the correct medicinal amount that would be needed to get the proper effects that are possible using Kava Kava. They report that 1,000-1,500 mg is closer to the proper dose, but that some people may need closer to 10-15 grams of instant or micro Kava Kava or 35 grams of traditional Kava Kava. Kava Kava has a “reverse tolerance” effect where people may feel almost nothing the first few times they use it, so always start with a lower dose and slowly work your way up. The proper dosage of Kava Kava varies from person to person, and the effects will be different depending on how quickly the Kava Kava is consumed.
Lavender Essential Oil
The ability to rest and get some sleep is really important during the detox and withdrawal process, particularly for people with substance abuse addictions, but those with behavioral addictions may also suffer from insomnia. Lavender essential oil can be used in an aromatherapy diffuser to promote calmness and a restful space. Studies have shown that lavender essential oil can help people communicate more effectively.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil has a number of health benefits. It helps eliminate fatigue and foggy thoughts. Like grapefruit essential oil, lemon is a natural invigorator. It can be used in an aromatherapy infuser to boost energy levels.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom / Hericium erinaceus
Lion’s Mane Mushroom relieves depression and anxiety. It contains a lot of amino acids, which can be extremely beneficial to individuals going through withdrawals and detox. Research has shown that it can help promote better sleep in addition to enhanced mood during wakeful hours.
Take 3,000 mg of Lion’s Mane Mushroom per day to help treat addiction.
Luteolin is a flavone with anti-depressant effects that works in part by impacting GABA levels in the brain. It also boosts the super-detoxifier, glutathione which gives it neuroprotective effects. Luteolin is an anti-inflammatory and a powerful anti-oxidant that inhibits microglia. It can help improve memory and reduce brain fog. It has the ability to regulate the glutamate system, which is beneficial for people with autism symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Mitragyna speciosa / Kratom
Kratom is commonly used to “switch addictions” particularly in stimulant and narcotic users. This plant is a member of the coffee family and it grows primarily in Southeast Asia. Depending on the dose, it may have either stimulant or opioid-like effects. Some users become addicted to kratom, but this may be the lesser of two evils if the user was addicted to an illegal street drug or a harmful prescription medication prior to using kratom. It is still legal in the U.S., but it is a controlled substance in 16 countries.
Kratom is used by many people as a treatment for chronic pain, but it is also famous as an herb for opiate addiction that can reduce withdrawal symptoms from drugs like heroin and morphine. It has a quick onset of action that begins within 5 to 10 minutes of consumption and lasts from 2 to 5 hours.
At low doses, Kratom tends to have stimulant-like effects. At higher doses, it behaves more like an opiate. To avoid becoming addicted to kratom, users will generally rotate from red-vein to green-vein, and then to white-vein types of the plant.
Motherwort / Leonorus cardiaca
Motherwort not only treats the reproductive hormones but also heart issues. It works with the root and heart chakra simultaneously and it is an excellent choice for anyone who has experience grief or heartbreak. It regulates heart arrhythmias. Some people recommend the use of Motherwort specifically for alcohol addiction though it may be beneficial for other types of addiction as well. It works by helping sedate the body while restoring the nervous system.
Take 1 dropper of tincture by mouth 2-4 times per day between meals. Or make a tea out of 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb, steeped for 10 minutes up to 8 times per day.
Mucuna pruriens / Velvet Bean
Mucuna pruriens is one of the most important anti-addiction herbs available. It works to cure all addictions, but you can read more about how to use it specifically to cure meth addiction here.
Passionflower / Passiflora incarnata
Passionflower is an excellent anti-spasm medication that can be used during the daytime or at night. It doesn’t cause morning sleepiness when taken at the proper dose. Studies have shown that passionflower can relieve anxiety and that this herb is particularly helpful for people who are addicted to heroin and morphine, but it is also used in nicotine withdrawals and alcohol addiction treatment. It can be used to lessen anxiety during the withdrawal process.
Peppermint Essential Oil / Peppermint Tea
Peppermint essential oil can be used to reduce nausea during addiction treatment. A drop of peppermint essential oil can be placed at the temples if you have a headache or on areas of the body that are in pain during withdrawals or detox.
Akuamma seeds originate from Africa and they have been compared in their effects to Kratom, though they tend to be less addictive than Kratom. Some of the active agents in Akuamma are able to bind to opioid receptors which means that Akuamma can help in overcoming an addiction to opioids. At 2 grams per dose (2,000 mg), Akuamma has pain killing effects that are similar to ibuprofen, but it also has muscle relaxant effects that ibuprofen does not have. People who are working on overcoming addiction start at 2,000 mg and move up to 6,000 mg after they know how this plant affects them.
Akuamma is beneficial to liver health and it has even been used traditionally to treat jaundice.
Not to be underestimated, Kudzu is one of the most important anti-alcohol herbal medications known throughout the world. Kudzu is related to Mucuna pruriens and these two herbs can be used together to break an addiction to either alcohol or nicotine. Mucuna helps reduce cravings by helping the brain produce sufficient quantities of dopamine. Kudzu, on the other hand, also works to change the way the body uses simple sugars. Both Kudzu and Mucuna can also be used in methamphetamine or cocaine addiction too. Kudzu raises levels of tetrahydropapaveroline (THP), which interferes with cocaine’s ability to increase dopamine levels in the brain. What this means is that Kudzu can help protect users from experiencing an addictive high from substances like cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, or meth while simultaneously reducing cravings and healing the brain.
Radix Bupleuri / Chaihu
Radix bupleuri is a Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for centuries to relieve depression, decrease inflammation, and reduce pain. Radix bupleuri is specifically valuable as a treatment for nicotine addiction. It is also used to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Resveratrol is a plant medicine that can come from a variety of different plant sources. In addiction medicine, it is best taken in low doses daily. It can be used to reduce meth cravings and it also reduces the effects that meth has on the brain. It works to reduce methamphetamine effects by lowering dopamine spikes and clearing out dopamine that isn’t needed and that may otherwise cause damage to the dopamine receptors. At the same time, it synergizes and works in tandem with dopamine receptors to increase the strength of natural L-Dopa that’s derived from the Mucuna bean. In other words, if you’re taking Mucuna pruriens for meth addiction or any other type of stimulant addiction, a daily dose of Resveratrol would also be beneficial to enhance the effects of the Mucuna and to protect the brain from further damage.
Rhodiola rosea, also known as Goldenroot or sometimes Arctic Root is a perennial succulent that’s found in dry, high-altitude areas in the far northern hemisphere. It’s roots have a rose-like smell, thus the name “rosea”. Rhodiola increases the body’s ability to tolerate stress by modulating serotonin and norepinephrine levels and it also influences the production of endorphins. Below are the traditional psychoactive effects attributed to Rhodiola:
- Enhances work performance
- Pro-cognition (it helps you think more clearly)
- Adaptogenic (it helps your body cope with stress better)
- Combats fatigue (both physical and mental)
Studies have shown that Rhodiola can help the brain recover normal levels of serotonin after 3-6 weeks of treatment. Scientists have observed Rhodiola helping areas of the brain like the hippocampus repair injured nerve cells as a result of treatment with Rhodiola.
Roman chamomile as a tea or as an essential oil can be used to relieve certain withdrawal symptoms like anxiety. It promotes rest and sleep. Therapeutic grade roman chamomile essential oil can be taken by mouth and used as a mild sedative. It promotes and hastens the detoxification process. Roman chamomile is often used to alleviate gas and other digestive upsets.
Salvia miltiorrhiza / Red Sage
Red sage, also known as Chinese sage, tan shen, and denshen can be used to reduce nicotine craving to make it easier to quit smoking. It also helps reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This herb has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to also generally enhance lung, heart, and brain health. Do not use it in combination with warfarin as it can enhance its effects and causing bleeding problems.
Salvia przewalskii can also be used in smoking cessation to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It can also be used by alcoholics to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Sceletium tortuosum / Kanna
Kanna (also known as Channa or Kougoed) is a succulent that’s native to southern Africa where it is used in ceremonial rituals as well as for healing. The people in these regions would chew on fermented kanna to reduce thirst and hunger when traveling on foot long distances, but this herb is also used by tribes people to overcome fear and stress. It works by increasing serotonin levels so it shouldn’t ever be taken with SSRIs or SNRIs.
Kanna has traditionally be chewed and swallowed, but some people make it into teas or tinctures or even gel caps. In some cases, individuals make it into a snuff that can be smoked.
Studies have shown that for healthy adults, 25 mg of a standardized 2:1 extract over a 3 month period is usually well tolerated with no significant side effects.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort by itself is a pretty mild antidepressant, but when combined with 5-HTP, derived fro Griffonia simplicifolia, St. John’s Wort can work wonders to naturally treat depression. This is another mainstay in the treatment of addiction. Some people need it, some people don’t. Often, we recommend a protocol that combines Mucuna pruriens, 5-HTP / Griffonia simplicifolia, and NAC along with St. John’s Wort as a beginning protocol to get started with treating addiction at home.
Tribulus terrestris has been studied by scientists looking for ways to reduce withdrawal and detoxification symptoms in opioid addicts. Morphine, a type of opioid, is a drug that can reduce hormone levels and cause sexual activity problems as well as infertility. Tribulus can help restore normal hormone levels and fertility in individuals, both male and female who have been addicted to opioids.
Tilia / Linden Flower
Tilia is an herbal medicine with sedative properties, but it can also reduce headaches, especially migraines. And it has the ability to reduce muscle spasms that are sometimes a part of the withdrawal and detox process for substance abusers.
Valeriana officinalis / Valerian Root
The effects caused by Valerian root can take 3-4 weeks to become noticeable. This herb has an effect on serotonin levels and the cellular growth in the brain. In other words, if you’ve put your brain through emotional or physical stress, valerian can help heal it. Valerian has been shown to be particularly helpful in healing neurons in the hippocampus to help serotonin levels normalize. Even very small doses of valerian have proven helpful, in fact.
Valerian root is considered to be a hypnotic as well as an anti-anxiety herb. One German study evaluated the perceived difference between Valerian root and Diazepam and 49 patients found that their anxiety resolved by taking valerian and they rated it as effective at a similar level to Diazepam.
This plant has sedating properties that downregulate the central nervous system. It also can be used to reduce intestinal cramping via its stress-reducing abilities. Valerian has an effect on the autonomic nervous system that causes it to not only reduce digestive cramping, but also spasms in the legs and arms.
Valerian root works by inhibiting the sympathetic nervous system and by increasing levels of GABA, the neurotransmitter that calms the brain and digestive system. Studies have shown that this herb can be useful in helping patients stay asleep when they’re trying to wean themselves off anxiety medications.
Verbena officinalis / Vervain
Verbena is a valuable herb that helps promote brain health by protecting neurons. It reduces anxiety and makes it easier to rest and sleep during detoxification and withdrawals. Epileptics use vervain to control convulsions. At 0.1-0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight, vervain shouldn’t be underestimated as a valuable tool in overcoming addiction to benzodiazepam. Diazepam users report that Vervain has an anxiety-reducing effect that’s comparable to diazepam.
Withania somnifera / Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic medicine that reduces cortisol levels, thereby reducing stress. It also keeps inflammation under control throughout the body so it can help with general aches and pains. It’s an herb that can help the body adapt better to stress. Some Mucuna pruriens products combine Mucuna with Ashwagandha because these two plants work well together to treat addiction, depression, and anxiety. Ashwaganda helps regulate the glutamate system, but it has effects on the opioidergic system to help reduce withdrawals and detox from opiates. Taking 500 mg of Ashwagandha 2 times per day has been scientifically shown to reduce cortisol levels by up to 30%.
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